Mark Polishuk of MLB Trade Rumors is reporting the Miami Marlins may be alone with the New York Mets in their pursuit for top free agent shortstop Jose Reyes. Add to that, it looks like the Marlins are poised to boost their initial offer to the slugging middle-bagger.
Reyes, who turns 29 in June of 2012, should command a pretty impressive contract this offseason. The Marlins' first offer was reportedly in the six-year, $80M neighborhood, with the Mets expected to offer a five-year contract of around that same value.
But here's the issue for the Marlins: They already have a shortstop. Hanley Ramirez, the only other shortstop capable of Reyes's offensive production, is in fact already playing for the Marlins. Ramirez has also said he's not keen on moving to third base. But he's also said he would love to play with Reyes.
Mixed messages aside, the possibility of signing Jose Reyes could result in an amazing upgrade for the Marlins infield. It could also be a big mistake.
Hanley Ramirez is somewhat of a butcher defensively at shortstop. According to the fielding data on his Fangraphs page, Ramirez suffers not only from errors, but a surprising lack of range -- surprising because he routinely steals 20+ bases, so he's not slow per se.
Moving Ramirez to an easier position (or a position lower on the defensive spectrum, not necessarily easier) like third base should help the Marlins pitching staff as well as increase Ramirez's overall value to the team. Plus, Jose Reyes is widely believed to be a strong defender at shortstop (though recently, advanced defensive stats have begun to frown at him a little).
Also, Reyes is one of the best hitting and base-running shortstops in the MLB, and he will only be 29 next year. However, there was another 29-year-old elite defender signed last offseason, and it did not go so perfectly...
In 2011, Jose Reyes hit a strong .337/.384/.493 (149 wRC+) with 39 steals -- easily the best offensive season of his career. In 2010, Carl Crawford hit a strong .307/.356/.495 (140 wRC+) with 47 steals -- easily the best offensive season of his career.
Crawford then signed a whopping 7-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, worth about $20M annually and then proceeded to stink it up in left field for the Sox, hitting a career-worst (disregarding his partial rookie year) .255/.289/.405 slash (83 wRC+) with only 18 steals while playing sub-par defense.
Let this Tale of the Crawford work as a cautionary missive to Marlins fans and executives excited about Reyes. It's important to remember: Reyes, like Crawford in 2010, is coming off a career year. Expect to pay premiums that may leave a powerful aftertaste of regret.
Reyes, like Crawford, has had leg injuries in the past -- and because he's a triples and steals guy, his legs constitute the majority of his game.
However, Reyes is still probably a gamble the Marlins would like to take. The team is still, at best, 10 wins away from reaching the 2012 MLB playoffs, but if they can add Reyes for under $15M a year, then they could quite possibly trim that 10 down to 6.